SpaceX Aims for 100 Launches in 2023, Bars-M to be Launched by Soyuz

SpaceX is making significant progress towards its goal of completing 100 launches in 2023. The company had a busy week with two Starlink missions and the second launch of the Starship. The first launch involved a Falcon 9 rocket placing 23 Starlink satellites into low-Earth orbit. This was followed by ExPace launching an unknown payload on its Kuaizhou 1A rocket, and the Russian Space Force launching a Bars-M payload on a Soyuz 2.1a rocket. These launches will bring the total number of orbital missions in 2023 to 210.

The Falcon 9 Block 5 rocket successfully launched the Starlink Group 6-29 mission from Florida. The 23 Starlink v2 Mini satellites were placed into a low-Earth orbit and will gradually rise to their operational orbit over the next few months. This launch marked the 15th flight of the first stage booster, B1067, which had previously supported various missions including CRS-22 and Crew-3. The booster was originally certified to fly up to 10 times but has now been recertified for up to 15 flights. SpaceX is expected to further increase the maximum number of flights to 25 in the future.

After the launch, the first stage booster successfully landed on the drone ship “A Shortfall of Gravitas.” SpaceX’s support ship, Bob, recovered both fairing halves from the water. This launch marked SpaceX’s 88th launch of the year and puts them on track to reach their goal of 100 launches for 2023.

SpaceX’s high launch cadence this year is unprecedented, with the company having nearly 50% of all orbital launches. CEO Elon Musk has stated that in 2024, SpaceX aims to launch 12 times per month for a total of 144 launches throughout the year. To achieve this goal, SpaceX has filed for Starlink missions that will return to the launch site, reducing the turnaround time at Space Launch Complex 40. The completion of the crew access arm installation at SLC-40 will also decrease the pad turnaround time.

In addition to SpaceX’s progress, the Kuaizhou 1A rocket is scheduled to launch an unknown payload from China’s Kichang Satellite Launch Center. The rocket stands 19.4 meters tall and can place up to 300 kilograms into low-Earth orbit. A larger version of the rocket, called Kuaizhou 12, is planned for launch in 2025 and will have a payload capacity of 20,000 kilograms.

Finally, the Russian Space Force is set to launch the Bars-M payload into Sun-synchronous orbit using a Soyuz 2.1a rocket. The Bars-M satellite is a surveillance satellite that will replace the Yantar-1KFT series. It features an electro-optical camera and a dual laser altimeter, providing topographic imagery with a ground resolution of one meter.

Overall, SpaceX’s successful launches and progress towards its ambitious goals highlight the company’s dominance in the space industry. With increased cadence and improvements in launch site turnaround times, SpaceX is poised to continue leading the way in space exploration and satellite deployment.